Living Planet Report 2018

The WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report has been released (links to the full report and the summary can be found here: https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/). It makes sobering reading. The Report shows that there has been a decline in the wildlife population of 60% over the past 40 years. It estimates that the value of environmental goods and services to humanity is around US $125 trillion annually. The Report highlights the great acceleration i.e. the increasing impact of human activity on all aspects of the environment including tourism, fertiliser use, building of large dams, and transport, for example, and the range of environmental impacts that these are having. These include, among others, levels of atmospheric CO2 and NOx, ocean acidification, decline of marine fisheries, loss of tropical forests and the transfer of nitrogen from farms to coastal waters. Farming remains the greatest threat to biodiversity, and this is only likely to increase, as the demand for more food increases with population growth and improvements in standards of living.

The report examines global variations in the ecological footprint of nations. Unsurprisingly, the highest ecological footprints are to be found in high-income countries such as the USA and Canada, and oil-rich countries such as the UAE and Kuwait. Surprisingly, Mongolia is among the countries with the highest ecological footprint. In contrast, the lowest footprints are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-east Asia with a few anomalies in Central America and the Caribbean.

The Report also includes a map of the threats to soil biodiversity. These threats are high or very high throughout most of the densely inhabited regions. Areas with low or very low threats are confined to arid areas, some fragments of tropical rainforest, and periglacial tundra.

The Report contains the Living Planet Index which highlights the health of the planet and its level of biodiversity. Since 1970 the Index has declined by about 60%. The ‘Earth overshoot day’ refers to the day of the year when the Earth has consumed as many resources as can be produced in a year. This year it was on 1 August, meaning we are consuming too many resources, possibly more than 70% more than the Earth can replenish.

The Report provides a roadmap on global biodiversity for action to take effect between 2020 and 2050. It identifies three stages: having clear aims, identifying ways in which progress can be measured and identifying actions that can be taken to achieve the goals. It is an ambitious roadmap but an essential one.

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